20 Great Holiday Buys under $20 in British Columbia (December)

Holiday Picks from our West Coast Critic Team

This time of year we get asked the same wine questions over and over (and truthfully, we regularly ask ourselves the same questions too)!

What are the best wines to have at my {insert holiday function here}?

Which we all mean to say…

What are the best wines at the very best prices to have at my {insert holiday function here} because my budgets are all being directed elsewhere but I still want to enjoy delicious and special wines?

We understand. From celebratory dinners to family brunches and from office lunches to gift swaps to the big festive dinner, there are countless wine pairing possibilities – and countless ways to blow your budget. The BC team has gleefully shared some of our favourite under-$20 picks to see you through this busy month.

Happy holidays and cheers from the WineAlign west team.

– TR

BC Team Version 3

Anthony Gismondi

I love to decant a young inexpensive red in a simple, plain, glass decanter. Not only does it look good but 30 to 60 minutes of air allows the wine to show its stuff. There’s really not any downside and the upside is your under $20 reds will taste like you paid under $30. Here are five holiday party picks that will all improve with some air and because they are in a decanter they will keep your guests guessing about their price and origin until the reveal.

The Castaño Lujuria 2013 offers fresh, juicy, red wine that mixes merlot and monastrell that is perfect for wandering the party floor catching up with friends.

The Yalumba Shiraz Viognier Y Series 2011 beguiles with its floral nose, ginger, bacon and a black pepper, savoury black fruit aromas and flavours. Grilled meats or cheese work here.

Castano Lujuria 2013Yalumba Y Series Shiraz Viognier 2011Xanadu Next Of Kin Shiraz 2011Famille Perrin Réserve 2012Louis Bernard Cotes Du Rhone Villages 2012

Another Down under pick, this time from Western Australia is the Xanadu Next of Kin Shiraz 2011. A warm, ripe vintage has spawned a peppery, plum, chocolate flavoured red that works with lamb.

Is there better value red wine in Canada at the moment than Cotes du Rhone? The Famille Perrin Côtes du Rhône Rouge Réserve 2012 bears a ‘Reserve’ moniker but it doesn’t really need the meaningless qualifier. The palate is juicy with plummy, ripe raspberry fruit flavours you can serve with grilled pork or lamb chops.

Maison Louis Bernard works with over 20 vineyard owners in the Côtes-du-Rhône Villages appellation which spreads across some 4000 ha and 95 villages in Ardèche, Vaucluse, Drôme and Gard. Expect a slightly more complex structure and bouquet from this delicious Louis Bernard Côtes du Rhône Villages Rouge 2012.

DJ Kearney

Holiday brunch is on the calendar, and my festive home will soon be bulging with rellies, friends and no doubt, one or twelve kids and a few pets….   The adults are thirsty, the kiddies are hungry and the pets are out of control…. It’s predictable and beloved holiday chaos.

All the favourite recipes have been dusted off, a few new ones are trialed, and the holiday log crackles from the TV in my Yaletown condo. Bubbly is essential for toasts and well, good times in general. One of my favourites for a crowd is the streamlined Anna de Codorniu, with bright citrusy fruit, pillowy mousse and extra definition from a preponderance of chardonnay (70%), uplifting native Spanish grapes. The snowy white bottle and the sale price of $16.49 are two extra reasons to drink or stuff into a stocking.

I’ll also have a favourite Alsatian quichy dish, tarte a l’oignion made with Gruyere cheese and melted onions all bound in a savoury egg custard. An easy and regional pair is Kuhlmann-Platz Gewurztraminer, perfumed, just off-dry and hefty enough for the rich tart.

Codorniu Anna De Codorniu BrutKuhlmann Platz GewurztraminerOlivares Rosé 2012La Vuelta Syrah 2012Ganton & Larsen Prospect Admiral Shorts Okanagan Tawny

Ham and a heaped platter of juicy plump sausages need a rosé and a substantial red – I’ll give the Olivares Jumilla Rosado 2012 a big chill (yes, we can drink pink in the winter) and wow my guests with an Argentine syrah, La Vuelta 2012 that is one of the best bargains I’ve encountered lately.

Dessert (if anyone can manage) is sticky toffee pudding, mince tarts (made from my Mum’s quince mincemeat recipe), plus some local blue cheese, and I’ll offer a BC treat, the Ganton & Larsen Prospect Okanagan Tawny. Like port, it’s been lengthily aged in cask, and offers a mellow, sweet and warming winter drop. Amazingly there are over 200 bottles in the BCLDB system, so don’t miss the chance to taste this fortified BC hero. Eat, drink and be merry.

Rhys Pender MW

Christmas Day for me involves drinking pretty much all day, but certainly isn’t about over indulging. You don’t have to spend a lot to drink well on Christmas day, but as it is Christmas after all, I have stretched the budget a little beyond the $20 mark – but not much.

Christmas starts early with young kids and so after a few strong coffees a little glass of bubbly is good for livening you up for the next eating event. You don’t need anything fancy, as a splash of good orange juice is often in order, but it must be good enough to stand up on its own – not sweet, a little complexity, and freshness. Cava is always the best value and for just a few dollars above entry level you get some pretty delicious wine. The Freixenet Elyssia Gran Cuvée Brut does nicely.

The next Christmas event is brunch and we always try to have something that is not too heavy, saving room for the grand feast later on. Bubbly works so if there is any Cava left, that will do but it is also a great time to taste some interesting whites. A wine that goes with a great range of foods is Muscadet. The Château De La Gravelle Muscadet Sèvre & Maine 2013 is crisp, mineral and fresh.

Freixenet_Elyssia_Gran_Cuv_e_Brut_Cava_webChâteau De La Gravelle Muscadet Sèvre & Maine 2013Château De Pierreux Brouilly 2012Muriel Reserva 2008Falernia Reserva Syrah 2010Taylor Fladgate Late Bottled Vintage Port 2008

When you get on to the main meal of the day, we often go for something other than the traditional turkey or ham, the stomach still full from Thanksgiving. Roast leg of lamb or beef tenderloin works well and allows a number of red wine options. If you go with a lighter Christmas dinner or the traditional route, good quality Beaujolais is the way to go. Try the Château De Pierreux Brouilly 2012.

For something a little fuller bodied, it is often fun to try something with a bit of age or some interesting flavours as there is often time to sit around with family and savour complex flavours. In terms of value for money, Rioja is hard to beat for wines with some development. One good bet is the Muriel Reserva Rioja 2008.

Another meaty, interesting wine that will go with grilled or roasted meats beautifully and do well around the fire place on its own is the Falernia Reserva Syrah 2010 from Chile’s Elqui Valley.

Somewhat miraculously towards the end of the evening, there is room for some cheese, Stilton being a particular favourite. The best value wine to match with a strong, crumbly cheese is Late Bottled Vintage Port. These wines can offer amazing value for money. Try the Taylor Fladgate LBV 2008.

Treve Ring

We all think about matching wine with food, but what about matching wine with people? A bottle of wine is a lovely gift to give and receive, and even more so when there is more thought put into the purchase than just the colourful label. Wine certainly needn’t be expensive to be fantastic, or appreciated. One of my favourite gifts to give is a bottle I’ve specifically selected for someone, along with a handwritten neck tag about why I chose it for him or her – and yes, often with a food pairing suggestion too.

For The Cocktailist: Lillet Blanc is a classic French aperitif – meant to stimulate the appetite before the meal. Try it over ice, or use in cocktails – the golden honey, apricot, orange oil and earthy spice a complement to many spirits.

For The Hostess: Bringing wine to an event can be hit or miss. Just remember that bubbles go with everything! Cava is an easy like and affordable place to start – Jaume Serra Cristalino Brut is mind-boggling value for all the lively green apple and citrus enjoyment.

Lillet BlancJaume Serra Cristalino Brut CavaViñas Elias Mora 2010Hester Creek Pinot Gris 2013No Unauthorized Reproduction @Jason Dziver

For The Carnivore: Elias Mora 2010 is a big, structured black fruited savoury tempranillo from Spain’s Toro region that would make any grill king or queen happy. I suggest pairing with roasted tenderloin and chestnuts.

For The Locavore: From an area that has been approved as BC’s first official Sub-Geographical Indication – the Golden Mile Bench – comes the spiced Hester Creek Estate Winery Pinot Gris 2013, a natural for those who support our local producers (and want something tasty to pair with leftover turkey sandwiches).

For The Sweet Toothed: With icewine, a little goes a long way. All the better then for the BCLDB’s stocking-stuffer-sized 50ml Inniskillin Niagara Vidal Icewine 2012 for $8 (!), a perfect little nip of peach nectar and mandarin spice to pair with your gingerbread.

****

Thoughout the entire month the BC team will bring you timely and useful holiday selections. Our December Critics’ Picks will focus exclusively on sparkling wines, and for the next BC Report I’ll be sharing news on BC’s icewine harvest alongside tasting notes for different styles of local sweet wines. Anthony’s Final Blend will close off December with a look back on 2014 and a look ahead to the fresh new year.

Cheers,

Treve

Here’s a short-cut to the complete list searchable by store: 20 under $20 in British Columbia

Editors Note: You can find complete critic reviews by clicking on any of the highlighted wine names, bottle images or links. Premium subscribers to WineAlign see all critics reviews immediately. Non-paid members wait 60 days to see newly posted reviews. Membership has its privileges; like first access to great wines!


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